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Chris Sweeney/Medill

Types of beer glasses, at Fat Cat Bar in Uptown, include, from left, the flute, goblet, tulip, hefeweizen, sniffter, larger tulip and chalice.  

99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 ways to serve them

by Christopher B Sweeney
April 23, 2008


Chris Sweeney/Medill

Bartender Nicholas Zaveloff serves up a Canadian Maudite in a tulip- shaped glass at the Fat Cat Bar.

Several Different Beer Styles

  • Lambic: Whole pieces of fruit are added to this brew after spontaneous fermentation has started. The beer is subjected to additional maturation before being botteled.
  • Hefeweizen: A style of wheat beer from Germany that has unique flavors of banana and cloves with an often dry and tart edge. The "hefe" prefix means with yeast.
  • Dubbel: A rich malty beer with some spice and a mild alcoholic taste. It may show traits of a steely caramel flavor from the use of crystal malt or dark candy sugar.
  • Tripel: A Belgian beer that uses three times the amount of malt of a standard Belgian beer. They are notoriously high in alcohol content.


As spring rolls in and the beer gardens of Chicago begin to blossom, knowing the proper glassware for drinking your brew is crucial. Or is it?

From goblets to pints, a wide range of glasses exists to hold your beer of choice. Some people say it heightens the taste and intensifies the drinking experience, while others say a good beer is a good beer no matter what glass you use.

“I think [the right glass] really enhances the experience” said Sean Pharr, chef and manager at the Uptown-based Fat Cat bar.

Serving up dozens of different types of beers, Fat Cat has an appropriate glass to go with each of its brews.

Champagne-like flutes are used for highly carbonated and fruity beers, such as lambics and German pilsners. The shape allows the drink to keep its carbonation as it forces the bubbles up the slender sides of the glass, spreading out the  aromas and taste, said Pharr.

A goblet, used for stronger Belgian-style beer, has a bulbous shape that helps trap the scent and flavor in the head of the beer.

“What [goblets] have is a laser etching in the bottom of the glass," Pharr said. “What the etching does, because now it’s an imperfect surface, is it catches [the carbonation] and brings it up the center of the beer, which allows a bouquet to form so ... the main focal point of the carbonation is right at the center, right where your nose is going to go.”

The typical pint glass, one of the most commonly used containers, is popular because its design allows it to be easily stacked and it is cheap to produce in mass quantity, Pharr said. Aside from holding the precise amount of liquid for a proper pint, it offers no benefit to the beer inside it.

A tulip-shaped glass, on the other hand, is used for IPA’s (Indian Pale Ales) and some forms of Belgian beers. The tulip shape supports a large foamy head, Pharr said.

Not everyone in the beer world says using the right glassware enhances the drinking experience.

Gabriel Magliaro, owner of Chicago-based Half Acre Beer, said different glasses have become a sort of trademark for different companies and don’t affect the drinking experience all that much.

“To me it’s a subtlety that comes down to aesthetics and less about the experience. I think it’s all a matter of personal preference,” Magliaro said.

Chuck Krcilek, owner and head brewer at Back Road Brewery in La Porte, Ind., agrees that the glassware has little to do with enjoying the taste of the beer. There is nothing in his brewing process that would lead to a special glass being needed to savor his final product, he said.

“We don’t get hung up on glassware too much,” Krcilek said. “I think it’s up to the individual. What people do with [the beer] when they get home is up to them.”

Nick Gurniewicz, a patron drinking from a tall hefeweizen glass at Fat Cat, said that it probably doesn’t change the taste or enhance the experience, but there is a tradition behind serving some beers in specific glasses.

“You don’t drink wine out of Dixie cup or a pint glass, so why wouldn’t you drink a beer out of its proper glass?” he said.

Gurniewicz sees beer-specific glasses as a major marketing tool.  “It’s total branding … as for developing the flavor ... I don’t know,” he said.

The glassware debate will continue as new flavors are developed and brewing companies look for new ways to keep drinkers loyal to their brand of choice.

“A lot of it is steeped in tradition, but in my personal opinion you can drink a good beer out of a bucket and it will still taste delicious," said Magliaro.